Shinjuku Thief – delete/resound

Darrin Verhagen |

In a society deeply literate in screen culture, the pressure to justify the visual inhabitation of imaginative worlds with a point of view more subjective than omniscient has all but evaporated. Native to the history of the ubiquitous lens, comfortable with the conventions of camera movement and editing, we can easily sit back and watch as the screen shows us things. In other words, seeing an environment no longer suggest that “we” are in that environment. Observation doesn’t infer habitation. When there’s no need to formulate a conception of identity (and that identity’s perspective) in order to parse the data we collect, we can simply look on…

Excused as we are from subjective construction, agency or any perceived complicity in what is being viewed then, the language of cinematic vision and the feeling it engenders can be just as un-engaging as it may be spectacular. Importantly, the questions “Where am I? Who am I? What am I?” are easily left unasked in the absence of materializing sound. By contrast, hearing the world we are seeing has the capacity to transform decorative pictures into salient events. Our ears, still anchored to our heads in a way that are eyes are not, have a capacity to place “us” inside the frame.

delete/resound, a sonic recontextualisation of Richard Grant’s video clip, removes the protective veneer originally afforded by Amnion’s seductive soundtrack. Through the replacement sound design, the intention was to locate the “viewer” inside the world they are seeing, without the previous score’s guidance and comfort to suggest how they should be feeling. Importantly, through sound, it extends space beyond the screen. It suggests that events and processes far more dramatic and unknown, potentially operating on a scale beyond immediate comprehension, are unfolding whilst “you” – tiny, inconsequent – are accessing only a singular, minute focal point. You are at the mercy of an environment you can only begin to understand. Low frequencies articulate scale; the sonic activity preceding visual justification speaks to the limits of visual perception; and a sense of drama sits on a horizon out of view – but nonetheless immanent and potentially dangerous. In all these areas, sound not merely enriches, but raises the stakes of the viewing experience in a way that image rarely can.

Without such aural guidance, Grant’s vision – a sophisticated insight into a possibly immense and dramatic science fiction landscape – could just as easily be selling us lemonade.



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[Editorial note: As with the Amnion piece, we recommend experiencing “delete/resound” in a dark room, full screen, through quality headphones.]


Music by: Darrin Verhagan (AKA Shinjuku Thief)
Video by: Richard Grant



Darrin Verhagen is a lecturer and researcher in multisensory experience. He teaches “Sound and Vision”, “Score and Sound Design”, and “Art, Music and the Brain” in the School of Art at RMIT University. He runs the Audiokinetic Experiments (AkE) lab in the Sculpture, Sound and Spatial Practice Studio, exploring the relationship between hearing, vision, movement and vibration. His research has focused on musical extremes – the delicate instability of lowercase sound and the brutality of noise. His soundtrack practice features music and sound designs for contemporary dance, theatre, installation, film, television and computer games. He has released over 20 albums of material internationally, traversing a range of styles, and performs his audiovisual live shows locally and internationally. He was the founder and curator of Dorobo records, which showcased Australian sound art for 15 years.

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